OPINION: It’s been a long time coming, but where did it all go wrong for Egypt?
On Monday, Egyptians watched on as the national team went from winning against Saudi Arabia to suffering a last minute loss to the Green Falcons.
Going into the World Cup, many Egyptians were hopeful that the team would make it to the Round of 16 ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia. But the Pharaohs left Russia with zero points and at the bottom of Group A.
However, the performance in Russia was something that could have been predicted prior to the competition. Yes the national team was missing its star Mohamed Salah against Uruguay, but even when he returned against Russia and Saudi Arabia the team still lost and were poor even though he scored two goals.
Quite honestly the international embarrassment that occurred was something that had been brewing for years.
Pre-Group Stage of World Cup Qualifiers
At the beginning of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, Egypt faced Chad over two legs with the first one away and the second at home. But much like what happened before the World Cup, Salah was injured in the Derby della Capitale against Lazio and missed the pair of matches. The first warning sign should have been that 1-0 loss to Chad. However, the team was able to defeat Chad 4-0 at home with goals from Mohamed Elneny, Abdallah El-Said, and a brace from Ahmed Hassan Kouka. The initial loss was almost wiped from memory.
The second warning could have come in the loss to Jordan. Of course the team will not win all their games, but the loss against Jordan left many scratching their heads. Many will argue that Héctor Cúper was trying out new players, and though that was true, losing to a team ranked 86 in the world shouldn’t have been a part of it. Moreover, the performance was underwhelming ahead of AFCON 2017 qualifiers.
”I respect everyone’s opinion and I’m entitled to mine. We tried new tactics and we played well, but sometimes in the game we weren’t good enough and there is always a possibility of failure.” – Héctor Cúper
But as we have quickly learned from Mr. Cúper’s press conferences, he still viewed everything to be in fine shape and on the surface, they were. Yet, whispers started emerging on the state of the squad. The Argentinian had come to rely on the same 15 players with solid players from around the league not receiving ample time to prove themselves, something that came back to haunt him in the long-term.
Yet, maybe the loss to South Africa with Salah playing the full match should have been a warning. Just days before, Egypt had drawn with Guinea 1-1 after Ramadan Sobhi missed the potentially game winning penalty. Though Cúper acknowledged that there were mistakes, there was no improvement in the match against South Africa.
From KingFut‘s review of the two friendlies we find the motto of the national team under Cúper.
“Cuper was too defensive as usual and dependent on counter-attacks and that was very apparent in these friendlies. Egypt failed to initiate proper threatening attacks on the opponent’s goal and they surely need to attack with more vigour in the future.”
It wasn’t till right before AFCON, however, that we learned Egypt’s style could be labeled as pseudo-defensive at best.
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